Class Conscious

By Martin, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), October 9, 2000 | Go to article overview

Class Conscious


Martin, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


Our society makes a fetish out of modernity, so it is taboo to talk in terms of class. Almost everyone I interview for this column denies its importance, whether it be an Oxfam spokesperson attesting to the broad appeal of diced organic mangoes from the developing world, or the crisp manufacturer claiming ignorance of the social profile of those who buy his jalapeno pepper crisps cooked with their jackets on. But, in my experience, almost everything comes down to class except (a) sexual perversion and (b) Formula One racing. This week, I will look at Formula One. (Thank you, incidentally, for staying with me after that disappointing announcement).

Once, it was very clear. Grammar-school-educated garagistes made the cars, and toffs drove them until they killed themselves. Today, Formula One is classless partly because, although the sport is essentially British, so many competitors come from places that are themselves presumably without a class dynamic. Mika Hakkinen, for example, is from Finland, where social nuance comes second to the national taste for drinking vodka and driving very fast through forests--two habits that are possibly not unrelated. …

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